Irit Dekel, “A Living Place: on Atmosphere and the Uncanny in Israeli and German Home Museums”

February 9, 2017
New Cabell Hall 236

A Living Place: Atmosphere and the Uncanny in Home Museums

Irit Dekel, Visiting Professor of Israel Studies, University of Virginia

A dark room, a cane, a nightgown on a bed: these are presented in home museums in Israel and Germany, of famous men and one woman. Such scenes are made to appear authentic through the mediation of objects assembly and stories, which make them relatable to the visitors but also strange and estranging, or uncanny.  In the article from which the presentation is drawn, co-written with Vered Vinitzky-Serrousi, we show under what circumstances the familiarity of home becomes unknown and how this enables the particular construction of authentic experience of self-situated visitors at home, through what we term temporal multitude, linking the personal stories of big men with historical narratives and their interpretation. Further, these museums create a national memory atmosphere in which specific national narratives are experienced as personal, thus stabilizing relations between individuals and national memory. At the same time they keep those memories multidimensional, multidirectional and open to revisiting.